President Donald Trump told people at a ceremony in Wilmington, North Carolina on Thursday last week that if people have voted by mail during the General Election cycle that they should go to their polling places on November 3rd to check whether their mailed in ballot had been tabulated, and that if election officials hadn’t tabulated their vote, to vote in person. Election officials across the country have asked people not to follow this procedure.
The direction of the president has caused mass confusion nation wide, with some media outlets suggesting that President Trump is asking people to vote twice.
Morgan County Clerk Jill Waggener says that the process for mail-in is relatively simple locally: “People who have requested a mail-in ballot will receive one, but they don’t necessarily have to vote on it. Some people are still on the line about whether they want to do mail-in voting or not because of all the negative press that is out there. We have always had mail-in ballots. It used to be called absentee voting. Anyone can surrender your [mail-in] ballot on Election Day and still vote in person. It’s a little more paperwork for my office and for the election judges on Election Day, but anyone certainly has the right to do that.”
Waggener says that there are safety checks involved in the tabulation process to catch whether someone has voted twice in an election. According to the Illinois Election Code, knowingly voting twice in an election is a Class 3 Felony, which can result in 2 to 5 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine; or depending upon a person’s criminal history, can result into an extended term sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Waggener says that voter fraud is nothing new to Morgan County: “[Anyone who votes twice] will be turned over to our State’s Attorney. We have had that happen in the past – just, in fact, a couple of years ago that situation came up. Usually my procedure is that I will talk to our State’s Attorney about it. He will then contact the Sheriff’s Department. A detective will come out and speak to you, and we will move forward from there.”
As of today, the Morgan County Clerk’s office has received 2,107 mail-in ballot applications out of approximately 14,000 applications that were sent out in the mail. Waggener says people still have time to send in the applications before ballots are sent out on September 24th. Waggener says that balloting for military members begins on the 18th with early voting beginning at the courthouse on the 24th.
Waggener says that several polling places on Election Day will be changing due to COVID-19 concerns: “We have had probably 8 precincts who have asked us not to use their facilities this time. I’m working on securing 1 location to move those all in with our social distancing in mind. It’s been very difficult, but I think we have a place secured. Once that is in concrete, as they say, then those precincts that will be effected will be notified by a letter from this office and it will also be posted in the newspaper, aired on WLDS/WEAI, and through The Source.”
Waggener says that she will send out the notice of the changes as soon as all plans are finalized. People with questions about mail-in balloting, early voting, and election day voting can contact her office at 217-245-8581 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.